Dealing With My Dated Den

Sorry for the silence last week, girls! I had some kind of flu bug rip through our house and it took us all down with it. Feeling better now, and I have saved the best for last in my new house Before & After series!

Behold, the horrific Before photo of the den, from the day we toured it:

And the same room, minus the laundry, clutter, huge television and dated wood paneling:

From another angle, here's a During shot:

And the same wall, after three coats of primer and one coat of "Pearl" by Olympic:

I love the built-in bookshelves and the iron chandelier I got to hang from the ceiling. (Note: I did not love the built-in bookshelves when I had to paint them all four times!)

This house was built in the 1950s, and I'm telling you, those fifties chicks knew how to work the storage. I have lots of cabinet space in here for all my crafty business, plus a cubby that holds all the over sized stuff. I just sewed a few squares of fabric and hung them with a tension rod to hide the messiness!

This bulletin board was part of the room already, and I really like how it looks now that the wood paneling above and below it is painted. I've already used that work table for a few projects, but it also doubles as a catch-all for mail and the usual junk!

A close-up of the bulletin board, with some of my inspiration clippings, fabrics and paint samples. I love having a place to hang up all this stuff!

I also have a little basket for my latest magazines, with a pen handy to circle stuff I like. I know, I am a big geek who gets all excited about a marker and a pile of magazines! I realized that as I was typing it.

So there you have it! How I Made Over Every Room In Our House With Paint for Under $500. Too bad there's not a House Painting Olympic Team. I would SO try out for that.

But now I'm off to take a nap!


Master Bedroom Changes!

Hello again! Today I'm sharing the updates we've made to the master bedroom. Just like in Henry's room, you're gonna have to look closely to see the changes, because I didn't get a true "before" photo. But here's the master bedroom with it's white walls and general messiness.

And here's the same room, after a little lovin'. The walls are painted "Bristlecone" by Olympic (just like Henry's room; I am nothing if not frugal!).

As you can probably tell, the room isn't all that big. Compared to my master bedroom in Colorado, or even the one in our previous California house, it's a tight squeeze. And would I love some crown moldings or hardwood floors? Um, hello? Do you know who you're talking to? Of course I would! :)

But it's a comfortable room, and at the end of the day I feel safe and cozy there. That's got to count for something, right? The patchwork quilt (Pottery Barn) adds to the general coziness, and it's nice for the winter.

But I've already tested my "summer look" and definitely plan on rolling this out when it's time to open the windows again! Like it?

A girl's gotta have options, right?


Kids' Rooms in a Rental

This is fun! You guys are a great audience, and thank you for being so complimentary of the changes in our house. Are you ready to see what else we've been up to?

You'll have to look close to see the before and after differences in this post! I wanted to share with you my son Henry's room, but, as usual, my impatience prevented me from getting a true "before" photo. But just notice the white and boring walls before:

And the after: Henry's room is painted "Bristlecone" by Olympic. It's a nice taupe, with some slight overtones of gray. I'll keep saying this: adding paint is the only thing we did in here, and it made such a difference between feeling like a rental and feeling like a home.

We added our usual cowboy accessories in here, mostly focusing on warm browns and reds as the accent colors.

The rug works well in here, although it probably wouldn't have been the one I'd choose if I had an unlimited budget. We liked the price tag though. (Free! It used to be in my husband's basement office in our Colorado house.) The curtains came from Pottery Barn Kids. I love them because they aren't too babyish and can grow with him as his room changes.

And just because this photo cracks me up, I had to leave you with one of Henry in his new digs:

He looks like he could be reading the Wall Street Journal with a latte and a muffin. Nope, it's just his Thomas the Train books. (Big business for a little man of almost two years!)


Upgrading the Playroom

OK girls, you know I must like you if I am willing to share this photo. It will help you to understand how nervous I was about decorating our new house. Without further ado, I give you the "before" photo of the playroom, taken on the day we toured it:

Fluorescent lights. Dated vertical blinds. White, white walls.

But I shouldn't have worried. This place has been fabulous for us in so many ways, and once I added some things to cozy it up, it felt like a new room. It sits on the far side of the of the house, and is accessible by both the kitchen and the family room...an ideal playroom for the kids!

We painted the walls (Vanilla Brandy by Olympic) and added some curtains to the sliding doors. Just opening the blinds made a huge difference. And of course, adding some family photos made it feel like home!

I know this room will never win any design awards, and that's not the point. But I thought it was a great example of how some cozy furniture, rugs and artwork can distract you from the fact that this could be a rather sterile room.

It's a good fit for our young family. It's practically indestructible, and we need that these days. And it reminds me never to judge a room based on first impressions!


Decorating a Nursery on the Cheap

Hey everyone! I am guest posting today over at Your Baby Booty, an awesome website and blog designed for new moms. I can't say how much I wish this tool had been around when I was trying to figure out what to buy for my first baby! Alas, now I can just share my thoughts on decorating a baby nursery on the cheap. At least I've got that skill down pat. Check it out!

I'll be back tomorrow with some more distraction decorating for you!


Being Happy With Small Changes

Guys, I think I may be setting some kind of record. We are less than two months into the lease on our new house, and I have ONE...ROOM...LEFT...TO...PAINT. Can I get an Amen?

I can't exactly say why I am so inspired to get things done around here. Maybe it's all the upheaval we've had for the past few months, but I am ready to give my family a place to settle down and make a home. I seem to have some kind of crazy energy that kicks in between the hours of 2-4 p.m. each day (nap time, folks!). Here are my latest results:

This is our front porch. If we owned this place, I'd be scouting house painters to take care of that wood siding. As it is, though, I am content to just do some small things. Starting with that green outdoor carpet. Buh-Bye.

Here is the same front porch a few weeks later. I ripped out the green stuff and found a perfectly serviceable cement step underneath. It was a bit discolored from years of carpet glue, but I doctored it up with some furniture stain. I spread the stain with a sponge brush, then immediately wiped it up with paper towels. Done!

The cement color isn't an exact match, but believe me, it's an improvement!

And here is the even less exciting post-Christmas version of my front porch.

Renting a house is giving me lessons in "good enough" decorating. It's the cousin of "distraction decorating." And I am becoming intimately involved with both!


Rental Bathroom Fixes

First of all, thank you so much for your comments on my last post. The January Blahs have been a little less intense since I wrote, and hearing how so many of you feel the same way...well, that helps a lot! Let's all keep reminding each other that we don't have to let that Christmas influence go, just because December is over!

With that focus on home, I have been taking the past weeks to cozy it up around here. As I mentioned before, we have become home renters in California, after being home owners since we got married. But, since we don't know how long we'll be in California, we didn't want to jump back into another home purchase until we know more about our future here.

Renting has definitely changed my perspective. How do you know how much effort to put in a place that isn't yours? Well, I don't plan on tearing out walls or adding granite countertops, but painting is definitely on the list. Check out my rental bathroom, B.P. ("Before Paint").

It was unoffensive. It was all white. It had a scary sliding door on the bathtub. But I can work with that. I added some green paint, called "Crocodile Tears" by Olympic.

We (cough!...I mean my husband) added an inexpensive bamboo shade on the window, just to warm it up and add some texture. We changed out the light switch covers. Put some cute accessories on the walls. And hung my new monogrammed towels (a lovely giftie from my mom for Christmas!), which just glams it all up in there!

Can you see the shower curtain in the photos? Its a Christmas gift from my sister (who knew my family cared so much about my rental bathroom?), the Audrey Organic Shower Curtain from Pottery Barn. Of course I see it is no longer available on their website, so I guess I'm not the only one who got this for Christmas. But it covers up the dated glass doors, which makes me happy.

The good news is that, except for the paint, I can take all these things with me whenever we leave. So I don't have to feel worried about investing too much, but I can enjoy this rental bathroom for the next few years.

More to come next week. Have a great weekend everyone!


Can We Still Be Home for the Holidays?

[This post is dedicated to Edie of Life in Grace, who lost her home to fire a few days before Christmas. I can't imagine how you feel, and I pray your sense of home is restored, with much grace from God.]

I've been thinking a lot about the holiday season.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. Like most of us, I love the cozy nights by the fire, the excuses to see family, and the many special treats and traditions that we look forward to every December.

There's always something that bothers me, though. It starts to set in bright and early on December 26, and by January 2, it's full blown. The Let Down. Everyone talks about it, everyone fears it. I can't say why for the rest of you, but for me, here it is:

The holidays give us permission to value the things that are really important to us. We walk into a store and the songs are playing over the speakers: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," "There's no place like home for the holidays," "Since we've no place to go, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!" It's like our whole culture allows one big recess from the usual focus on achievement, acquiring, and conquering. We are told it's acceptable, even preferable, to sock in, cuddle up, turn to our families and friends, and allow that to be enough.

I know we have control over our own lives and we can choose what messages we allow to penetrate during the other 11 months of the year. We can sock in and cuddle up anytime we want to, right? But somehow it just feels like the hurdles are bigger, and that we have to defend our choices a little harder.

Does anyone else just feel a bit bummed about having to get back in the fight?

In an attempt to remind myself that "home for the holidays" doesn't have to end after Christmas, I posted this quote in my kitchen:

It reads:
Winter is the time for comfort. For good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire. It is the time for home.
--Edith Sitwell, British poet

May your January have as many open fires, chestnuts, and comforts of home as your December.